We pick you up at Lijiang International airport and deliver you to your accommodation in Lijiang, the heart of Dayan — the ancient centre of Lijiang.After sipping a cup of the tea that made Lijiang an important trading post for hundreds of years, and settling in to your room, take our special guided walk along the winding cobblestone lanes on a tour that will immerse you in this unique 800-year-old town and its culture.
Return to the hotel along a canal path to relax and have dinner at the hotel restaurant. If you then feel like an evening stroll, there are more lanes to discover, and it’s at night that the old town really comes to life. For photographers, it’s worth a second trip to the city overlook for a sparkling night time view, and for everyone perhaps a drink in a canalside café or bar.
After breakfast, walk south along the picturesque Zhonghe (Central River), one of Dayan’s three main waterways, past willow trees and over exquisite stone footbridges (the ancient town has 350 of these, in a wonderful variety of designs). This is the quiet, unhurried side of Lijiang life, so stroll at your leisure.
Our designed walk brings you back to the hotel,where our chef will lead you to nearby Zhongyi market,a bustling centre of buying and selling, completely authentic, very light on tourism and very strong on Naxi culture. From the wet market, through vegetables and dried goods to copper pans and kettles at the northern end, Zhongyi is the vibrant heart of delicious Naxi cuisine.
Drive back by way of the small town of Baisha, one of the three old communities that, together with Dayan and nearby Shuhe make up the original Naxi settlement of Lijiang. Visit the temple with its ancient murals, and learn about the old Dongba hieroglyphic script, unique to the Naxi people and the world’s only living pictographic language. From here, it’s a short walk to a school that teaches the weaving of silk pictorial tapestries, a local tradition, and a stroll through Baisha before driving back to Lijiang. Dinner tonight is the Naxi hotpot that the chef and his team have been preparing during the day.
Drive north from Lijiang along the route of the old Tea Horse Road to Shangri-La and Benzilan. An exciting day of mountains, gorges, high passes and a complete cultural shift awaits as we move from the lands of the Naxi people to ethnic Tibet. The horse caravans used to take over a week to reach Shangri-La (or Zhongdian as it was known in those days to the muleteers), but it will take us just 3.5 hours.
After lunch, we drive northwest out of town to circle the wetlands of Napahai, an important and complex ecosystem that changes dramatically with the seasons. During and after the rains, Napahai (Napa Lake) fills up, and because this high plateau encircled by mountains is on a major flyway, it attracts thousands of migratory birds seasonally, and the rare black-necked crane over winters here. As the shallow lake slowly drains, Tibetan farmers pasture their herds of yak and flocks of horses on the wetlands, as they have for centuries, including the very horses that formed the old caravans.
Leaving Napahai, the road continues its ascent into the mountains before we meet once again the Yangtse River, and follow its winding canyon until we reach our accommodation in Benzilan, nestled in the gorge by the rushing waters, without doubt the most luxurious modern caravanserai along the Tea Horse Road. Benzilan has its own special micro-climate, warmer and drier than the surrounding plateaus; it never snows, even in the depths of winter. Settle in, relax by the pool or on the roof terrace as our chefs prepare your dinner, and plan for tomorrow’s exploration.
After breakfast (choose between Chinese, Western or Tibetan), drive 25 minutes to Dongzhulin, an important monastery of the Gelugpa (Yellow Hat) sect.
Now we drive back towards Benzilan and take a small valley up into the hills. This is Shuibianhe Valley with three traditional Tibetan hamlets, and we continue up to the middle one, Shiyi, to watch the making of traditional Tibetan incense sticks, then return to the lower hamlet of Bairen to visit the bell-maker.
After lunch, drive back to Dongzhulin to attend one of the famous Gelugpa-sect debating sessions (the first of two each day for these monks). These are conducted in a very physical and highly charged debating style between pairs of monks, usually students, in which one sits and the other stands, jumps, dances, and to make his point shouts and strikes one hand with his fist. To stand in the middle of a courtyard of dozens of debating monks is an amazing experience.
Return to the hotel to relax by the pool or on the roof terrace, take dinner, and if you like, enjoy our Cinema Paradiso experience, watching one of our collection of movies al fresco under the stars.
After breakfast, drive 45 minutes to the mouth of the Balagezong Canyon, which leads up to the mountainous interior east of the Yangtse gorge. Our hotel lies at the heart of UNESCO’s Three Parallel Rivers protected area, included on the World Heritage List because of the outstanding landscape of deeply-incised gorges and exceptional biodiversity, and Balagezong is a wonderful introduction to this.
After a day of activities and lunch return to the hotel to relax by the pool or on the roof terrace, and the last dinner of the trip. Cinema Paradiso is waiting for you by the poolside if you would like another movie night.
After breakfast, drive to Shangri-La Airport for your flight onwards.
2 Adults Total $3289
Travel Dates: 01/03/18 – 30/09/18
Terms & Conditions Prices based on per person double/twin share. Prices correct as at 07 February 2018 but may fluctuate if surcharges, fees, taxes or currency change. Offer is subject to availability. Please check all prices, availability and other information with your travel consultant before booking. Bookings must be made direct with Concierge Traveller. Package cancellation fees apply. All savings and bonus nights (if applicable) are included in the advertised price. Offers may be withdrawn without notice and are not combinable with any other offers unless stated. Local city taxes may apply.
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